NIGMS Infectious Disease Modeling Program Turns 10

Announcement Date:

An innovative program that uses computational, statistical and mathematical modeling to understand the spread of infectious diseases and the potential impact of intervention strategies is marking its 10th anniversary this month. The results of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) can inform decision making by public health officials and policymakers.

“Since its inception, MIDAS has pioneered the use of computational and mathematical models to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious disease threats,” said Irene A. Eckstrand, Ph.D., MIDAS program director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).  “Computer modeling is an efficient way to take into account many different factors not easily examined in real life.”

To mark the program’s 10th anniversary, NIGMS is hosting a symposiu​​m titled “Modeling for Science and Policy.” The agenda includes short talks by MIDAS researchers on modeling for scientific understanding, health policy decision making and preparedness planning. Among the diseases to be discussed are flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, drug-resistant TB, and MRSA.

The meeting, which is free and open to all, will be held on September 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lister Hill Center Auditorium on the NIH campus. The meeting can also be viewed remotely (live or later) via the NIH Videocast Web site.

MIDAS activities include:

  • Working with the Institute of Medicine and the National Association of County and City Health Officers, MIDAS held a workshop at the 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit to demonstrate how modeling can be used by local public health officials to inform policy decisions.
  • The University of Pittsburgh center has developed a software program called FRED that uses high-performance computing to create virtual outbreaks and deliver the results to a smartphone. The approach could enable public health officials to employ modeling tools even when they aren’t at their computers.
  • The Harvard School of Public Health center is developing models for the emergence of drug resistance in influenza, tuberculosis and other diseases to study the implications for clinical decision making.
  • The University of Chicago project uses large-scale computational modeling to explore the dynamics of MRSA among incarcerated and other communities on the south side of Chicago.
  • The University of Washington project has examined the impact of vaccine policies and usage on halting the spread of cholera in Haiti.
  • The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute project is developing a computer activity to teach high school students how epidemiologists study outbreaks and use mathematics and computation to help make public health decisions about vaccine distribution and school closures, for example.
  • The MIDAS information technology resource has developed detailed virtual human populations for many countries, including the United States, Mexico, Thailand, China and Argentina. These populations allow investigators to simulate social networks, transmission dynamics and the impact of behavior and policies on disease spread.

For more MIDAS results, see the MIDAS new​s page. MIDAS models, software and other resources are available at the MIDAS Port​al.